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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2011


Stressed economies

As the Thanksgiving deadline approaches for Congress' deficit-cutting super-committee to complete its work, hopes for success appear slim.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy -- its feeble job creation, home foreclosures, and increasing numbers of people living in poverty -- continues to get worse in many ways.

In Europe, euro-zone countries are struggling to deal with Greece's huge debt and borrowing. Major problems loom in Italy, Europe's third-largest economy; Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is resigning under pressure.

These developments may seem distinct from America's distress. But MF Global, the Wall Street firm headed by Jon Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs exexecutive and governor and U.S. senator from New Jersey, has collapsed largely because of its speculation in the bonds of troubled European countries.

Back at the super-committee, reports suggest that neither Democrats nor Republicans on the panel want to give ground on their standard, 2012-election-driven positions.

The six Republicans -- including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio -- reportedly continue to insist that nothing that could be seen as a tax increase -- even closing tax loopholes -- can be included in the committee's recommendations.

Democrats reportedly are willing to see spending cuts, even in some of their beloved social programs, but only if Republicans agree to "revenue enhancements," the polite term for tax hikes.

Both parties' representatives are gun-shy about any cuts in military spending, fearing that the other party will accuse them of being soft on defense. In the meantime, the Pentagon is beating the drums hard for no cuts in their programs, threatening a "hollow army."

Some military leaders are even raising the specter of a new Mideast war to replace the one that is ending in Iraq after eight years. Iran would be the new target, involving the United States as the war inevitably expands into a full-scale regional conflict.

The super-committee needs to apportion spending cuts across government programs, including defense. It needs to raise revenue as it reduces spending. Americans have a right to expect the 12 lawmakers to do their jobs, and to produce results on time.

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